Responding to changing situations and needs with ToP Consensus Workshop – #FacWeek -2

This is the 4th of a series of six weekly posts to mark International Facilitation Week 2017, starting just 2 weeks from today. Drafted as I enjoyed a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer, the posts share a series of examples of how I have applied, customised and adapted the ToP Consensus Workshop method in my practice over the past year. 

How will you celebrate and promote the power of facilitation this year? Please share online with the #FacWeek hashtag, or in a comment below…


Example 4 – Oxfam, Gaza & Jerusalem

In February of this year I worked with Oxfam in OPTI to support its staff team of around 100, based in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza, to operationalise the new ‘One Country Strategy’ and ‘Country Operating Model’ that had been developed last year. An explicit experiential aim was ‘to help staff & teams to align with each other and with the new strategy & structures, and to renew staff solidarity, motivation and team spirit as One Oxfam OPTI’. However, travel restrictions meant that there would be no opportunity for all the staff from the three locations to meet together at once.

As in the earlier cases of Manchester Primary Care Trust and the Oxfam in Lebanon One Country Strategy process, we used separate Consensus Workshops with the same Focus Question to consult with different groups in series. In this case two ‘consultation workshops’ were held, one in Gaza and one in Jerusalem, each for all staff who could attend. A third ‘consensus-building workshop’ involved a cross-section of around 40 staff, who had been members of either or both of the consultation groups, to build consensus from the results of them both.

The Focus Question was ‘what can we learn from our survey responses and from our experience of recent years, internal & external to OPTI & the OCS process, to inform our plans for OCS operationalisation?‘. The result informed a further two days of review, learning and planning with the cross-section of around 40 staff.

Fabrizio Biondi Morra, Program Manager at Oxfam in OPTI , wrote in August:

“Following the workshop delivered by Martin with Oxfam in OPTI, the country team had a roadmap that laid out all the next steps sectorial working groups had to carry out. Also, through the consensus building process staff from across sectors and offices could come together and strengthen their relationships. These to elements together enabled us as team to renew our professional and personal bonds and work effectively.”

Read on for example 5…


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Excellence in facilitation

W&W April 2016 cover image 900x600Welcome to this April 2016 issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, on the theme “Excellence in Facilitation”.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) has for decades employed facilitation as a core strategy in our mission of ‘advancing human development worldwide’. When I myself first trained with ICA in the UK, as an international volunteer to a Human Development Project of ICA in India in 1986, a core element of that training was in what was then referred to as ‘ICA methods’ – what is now known worldwide as ICA’s ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) facilitation methodology. Facilitation remains central to our approach to doing human development, and to being ICA.

This facilitative approach is more critical today than ever in enabling the human family to address the great challenges and opportunities that are now facing us and our planet. We argue, in an ICAI statement submitted this month to the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA), that facilitation has a key role to play in moving from commitments to results, transforming public institutions and leadership for the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this issue you will find a diverse collection of stories illustrating how ICAs and colleagues of our global network are applying such a facilitative approach in a variety of settings, from local to global, often in peer-to-peer collaboration with each each other.

A rehabilitation project of ICA Nepal brings hope to those affected by that country’s earthquake, supported by ICA Australia. ICA Taiwan builds a learning community through ‘Truth About Life’ dialogues. ICA Chile partners with the Ministry of Social development and with Global Facilitators Serving Communities (GFSC) in leadership development work with disabled people.  ICA Peru supports comprehensive community development programmes in high altitude mountain communities affected by climate change. Emerging Ecology USA and ICA India develop a capacity building curriculum, building on ICA’s original Human Development Training Institutes of the 1970s.

Ann Epps of LENS International Malaysia reflects on the Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) programme of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), founded in 1994 by 70 ICA ToP facilitators including Ann herself. Winds & Waves editor Rosemary Cairns reflects on the role played by facilitation in turning volunteers into a social movement, through a Community Revitalization through Democratic Action programme in Serbia following the NATO bombing of 1999.  I myself share a reflection on how facilitation, and ICA’s ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process in particular, helped Oxfam in Lebanon last year embark on a complex and challenging change process in the midst of a complex and challenging response to the unfolding Syria crisis (see also Facilitating change in complexity).

Meanwhile, ICAI members continue to step up their peer-to-peer support and collaboration through means of online and regional ICA gatherings, and ICAI global working groups as well.  ICAs in East & Southern Africa met in Zimbabwe in March, ICAs of the Americas are now preparing to meet in Peru in May and ICAs of West Africa, Europe MENA and Asia Pacific are making plans for their own regional gatherings later in the year.

In order to enhance the reach and impact of our ToP facilitation approach worldwide, the ICAI global ToP working group is busy developing proposals to support implementation of the global ToP policy agreed last year, drawing on insights gleaned responses to a recent global ToP survey. The ICAI Board is pleased to have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) to promote and support greater collaboration between our two organizations, our respective members and our local groups around the world.

Thank you to all who have contributed to this new issue of Winds & Waves.  Enjoy this issue, and please share it and encourage others to do so.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
hyperlinks are to the regular online version

President’s message

Winds & Waves Masthead

Behind the scenes

Polish your writing skills

Facilitation

Turning volunteers into social
movement
 by Rosemary Cairns

The truth about life experience
By Richard West

Designing a strategy  process
for Oxfam
by Martin Gilbraith

Setting sharp standards by Ann Epps

Training

Life skills for building communities by Nelson Stover                              

Education

Studying sports and mind-body
link in India
 by Nelson Stover

ICA Reports

ICA NEPAL

Rehab project brings hope to quake
victims
by Binita Subedi

ICA CHILE

Working with the disabled in 2016by Isabel dela Maza

ICA PERU

Economic plan inspires mountain towns by Gloria Santos and Jesusa Aburto

Perspectives

Being present to life (English) by Teresa Sosa Vegas

Estando Presente (Spanish) by Teresa Sosa Vegas

Poetry

Manilamen: the ‘Outsiders’ within by Deborah Ruiz Wall

The litmus test of Worth by Deborah Ruiz Wall


This post was first published in Winds and Waves, April 2016. For past issues, please visit our Winds and Waves archive.

Facilitating change in complexity – the Oxfam Lebanon ‘One Country Strategy’ process

Beirut seafront 525x296“What would it take for multiple and diverse stakeholders to align behind a complex and demanding change process, in a complex and demanding environment?”  This was the question that intrigued me as I became engaged with the Oxfam Lebanon ‘One Country Strategy’ process.

It was in September 2014 that I was approached to help with the design and facilitation of a ‘One Country Strategy’ (OCS) process for Oxfam in Lebanon.

PSP case study thumbnailFran Beytrison had recently taken up the role of Oxfam GB Country Director for Lebanon, after moving from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in Geneva where she had participated in a strategic planning process that I had facilitated the previous year – see Transformational Strategy: from trepidation to ‘unlocked’.

A complex and demanding context

Oxfam is one of the world’s largest and best-known international NGOs, founded in 1942 in Oxford in the UK.  Today it comprises 17 national Oxfam Affiliates that are federated as Oxfam International and work in over 90 countries worldwide. It’s work includes emergency humanitarian relief, long-term development programmes and policy research and advocacy. It describes the scope of its work in terms of six key issues: active citizenship, gender justice, inequality and essential services, natural resources, saving lives and sustainable food.

Oxfam GB had launched a major emergency response to the Syria crisis in Lebanon in January 2013. Oxfam Novib and Oxfam Italia had been operating long term development programmes in Lebanon for some years before that. Oxfam GB’s Middle East regional Gender Justice programme was also located in Beirut, and Oxfam France and Oxfam Quebec were also involved in work in Lebanon.

By the autumn of 2014 it had become clear that an emergency humanitarian response could no longer be regarded as an adequate response to the ongoing and increasing effects of the Syria crisis in Lebanon. By then already over a million Syrian refugees were living among a pre-crisis population of around 4 million in Lebanon.  Also in 2014 Oxfam International had launched a major organisational change process to achieve a new ‘2020 Vision’. This required a single ‘One Country Strategy’ to bring together the work of all Oxfam Affiliates in each country, as a first step toward to eventual merger as, for example, Oxfam Lebanon.

To plan and implement such a complex and demanding change process successfully, in the context of complex and demanding work in a complex and demanding environment, it was felt essential to effectively engage with all 150 or so in-country staff and other key stakeholders through a robust and professionally facilitated process.

The aims and scope of work

The Terms of Reference agreed for my role in October described the aims of the process to develop a One Country Strategy for Oxfam in Lebanon as threefold:

  • to bring the three Oxfam affiliates operational in Lebanon and the Lebanon components of the Oxfam GB regional Gender Justice programmes together behind a single vision and shared operational plan, as a basis for moving to a country programme structure in line with the Oxfam 2020 Vision, while enabling other interested affiliates to engage as well
  • to clearly detail a gender-mainstreamed One Programme approach (humanitarian, development and policy) as a means of improving programme quality and building a more integrated response, fully leveraging existing expertise across all relevant affiliates
  • to position Oxfam as a leader in the increasingly consensual debate around a ‘Lebanese response’, as opposed to a ‘Syria response in Lebanon, through clear and evidence-based programmatic and policy shifts including strong sectoral leadership in key areas.

The process was therefore to guide both ‘technical visioning’ of Oxfam’s added value and role in Lebanon and organisational change to support implementation in the immediate and in the longer-term. It was to demonstrate a systematic, inclusive and participatory approach to strategic and operational planning and collaborative working, and so build shared commitment, confidence and trust for a new way forward together.

It was agreed to include also work with key actors within the country programme to develop skills for additional facilitation across various departments and sectors, particularly with a view to supporting the development of technical sectoral and departmental action plans in line with the broader Oxfam Country Strategy.

The contract allowed for up to 50 days’ work over six months from November to April, structured in four phases and including four trips to Lebanon. In the event my role required just 40 days’ work including three trips in November, December & January.

How the process unfolded

Phase 1 was conceived as a Preparation & Design phase. The aims were to develop a clear and agreed plan and budget for the process as a whole, and to develop shared clarity, confidence and commitment among staff and any other key stakeholders to the project and its 6-month timeframe.

A one-week trip in November allowed for a series of in-country consultation and process design meetings with large and small groups of staff of the various Oxfam affiliates in Lebanon, in Beirut and two field offices.

OCS Orientation day - outlineThe week included a one day OCS Orientation day for a cross-section of around 45 staff.  The World Cafe method was demonstrated and applied to share questions, concerns and possibilities for the OCS process. The ToP Focused Conversation method was demonstrated and applied to introduce my own role as facilitator of the OCS process. The ToP Consensus Workshop method was demonstrated and applied to inform the design and delivery of the OCS process by agreeing “What do we need to take into account to ensure the success of this OCS process?”.

The IDMC case study was used to outline the ToP Particpatory Strategic Planning process that would provide a framework for the OCS process as a whole. A project steering committee of 6-8 staff was established, to act as a soundboard and guide to the design process and oversee subsequent implementation.

Additional remote consultation was conducted with stakeholders based outside Lebanon. All the questions, concerns and aspirations raised during this first phase were documented and reviewed with the steering committee, and helped to informed the design and delivery of the remaining phases.

ToP Participatory Strategic PlanningPhase 2 was conceived as the Launch phase. The ‘rational’ aim was to develop a clear and agreed strategic framework as a basis for the single country strategy. This was to include an analysis of the changing strategic context; Practical Vision, Underlying Contradictions and Strategic Directions of the ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process; and a 3-month action plan for completion of the strategy.  The ‘experiential’ aim was again to develop shared clarity, confidence and commitment among staff and any other key stakeholders, this time to the emerging strategy and the plan for its completion.

By this stage the steering group had clarified the ‘Focus Question’ for the overall strategic planning process as: “What can we do over the next 5 years as one Oxfam in Lebanon working with others to address suffering and inequality in Lebanon?”

A 10-day trip in December allowed for the preparation and facilitation of a 4-day OCS Launch Week event, involving a series of sessions with different sub-groups.

OCS Launch week - outlineThe morning of Tuesday’s ‘Consultation Day’ involved key staff and external stakeholders invited for their knowledge and experience of Oxfam Lebanon’s changing strategic context.  The ToP ‘Wave’ exercise was used to chart and analyse trends, ‘on the horizon, emerging, peaking and dying’, to inform the subsequent strategic planning process.

The afternoon of the Consultation day involved around 150 staff of the various Oxfam affiliates in Lebanon plus key regional staff and local partners. The World Cafe method was used to enable this larger group (in 15 tables of 10, each including a team of 3 conversation hosts) to deliberate and to share responses to the three ‘focus questions’ that would guide the consensus building and strategy building for the remainder of the week:

  1. OCS Consultation day - world cafe table instructionsPractical Vision: “What would we like to see in place in 5 years’ time, as a result of the work of Oxfam in Lebanon?”  (indicators of external impact and internal effectiveness)
  2. Current reality: “What in our current reality is blocking us from realising our Vision?” (both internal & external to Oxfam Lebanon)  “What strengths do we have to address these obstacles?”
  3. Strategic Directions: “What practical projects or initiatives over the next 5 years could address these obstacles and help to realise our Vision?”

The remaining three days involved a cross-section of around 45 staff, each of whom had hosted one of the three World Cafe conversations at the 15 tables of 10 on Tuesday.  Each day involved an extended and adapted ToP Consensus Workshop process. First in groups of six, pairs of table host teams reviewed and clustered the ideas that they had harvested from their World Cafe table conversations on the question for that day – Practical Vision, Current Reality or Strategic Directions. Second, each Oxfam affiliate, field office, department and programme team met separately to add any further ideas from their own distinct perspective that they felt may not yet have been adequately reflected in the ideas shared.  Third, the whole group of 45 worked together for most of the afternoon to weave all the ideas generated into clusters, and to name the emerging consensus.  Finally, at the end of the week, outline action plans were agreed by work team for communicating the outcomes to those not present, and engaging with them over the coming weeks and months in finalising the framework and planning for implementation.

Strategic deployment of breaks and energisers helped to just about sustain the group’s energy throughout the week – to deal with large volumes of complex data, and to build consensus on often contentious issues among a group that was itself in many ways reflective of the diversity of perspectives and interests at play in Oxfam’s humanitarian, development and advocacy work in Lebanon.

A brief review of Oxfam International’s global change goals just before the naming of Strategic Directions enabled the group to align their names with Oxfam’s global strategy without having been overly constrained by them in their own visioning or in their analysis and response to their own local and regional realities. The outcome was four Strategic Directions, each articulated by a number of distinct ‘strategic intents’, designed to collectively address the Underlying Contradictions to the Practical Vision:

  • Designing and implementing integrated & effective, rights-based humanitarian & development programmes
  • Working with others to achieve high quality programmes
  • Investing in staff
  • Influencing to create change from the local to the global.

Doubtless the steering committee or Fran alone might have developed a very similar framework without such an elaborate and inclusive engagement process, but of course the experiential aims of shared clarity, confidence and commitment  were central and critical to the OCS process. Feedback indicated that the group had indeed found the week long and tiring, and in some cases it was felt that key issues or perspectives had not been adequately addressed or not in proper proportion. Nevertheless it was clear that the visual and participatory approach had been appreciated, and the open and frank discussions, diversity in participation and perspectives, and the clarity and consensus achieved. Fionna Smyth, then Oxfam GB Regional Campaigns and Policy Manager for the Middle East, Eastern Europe and CIS, commented recently on LinkedIn:

“I was at this particular meeting and it really was a phenomenal experience. It developed a clear vision, and was inclusive of many diverse voices. I loved Martin’s approach.”

By the end of the week, it was high time to enjoy the staff Christmas party! Having documented each workshop on the day, in preparation for the next day’s workshop, it was then a simple matter to compile a first draft OCS strategic framework document for circulation and feedback between December and January.

Phase 3 was originally conceived to include the resolution of any key issues in finalising the strategy document for approval in April, and development of clear and agreed (and comprehensive) operational plans for implementation of the first year of the new strategy. The ‘experiential’ aim again was to promote shared clarity, confidence and commitment among staff and other key stakeholders to the emerging strategy, and also now to plans for its completion and implementation.

It was agreed with the steering group after the Launch Week, however, that to continue such a comprehensive approach with such broad engagement could be asking too much of the staff in the midst of the many other demands on their time and energy.  Moreover, on reflection, it was felt that some areas of programming and organisational change could benefit more than others of facilitation support to enable effective engagement and an appropriate and successful implementation planning process.

For these reasons it was agreed switch from a comprehensive to a targeted approach to facilitation support in the implementation planning. Instead of working again with a cross-section of the whole staff on planning the whole of the implementation together, I would work with key stakeholders in three particular programme areas to apply the new strategic framework to tailored planning implementation in those particular areas.  Also I would offer ToP Group Facilitation Methods training to a cadre of 30 staff and partners from across the work teams and affiliates. These two elements became the twin focus of a two-week trip to Beirut in January.

Phase 4 had been conceived to allow for a collective review of experience and learning from the project and first quarter implementation, and to agree clear 90-day workplans for the second quarter, with the experiential aim of consolidating pride in the strategy and support for the structural merger.  However we had already transitioned from a comprehensive and collective approach in phase 3, to an approach in which the (already somewhat restructured) work teams were able to integrate the agreed new strategic framework in their operational work planning and in their longer-term programme development work.  Much had changed meanwhile as well in the strategic context, not least in the the Syria crisis itself and in its unfolding impact in Lebanon.  For these various reasons a fourth trip was not felt necessary, and my own role in the OCS project was concluded.

As it turned out, I made another two trips to Beirut for another client in May and June of 2015, to design and facilitate a participatory strategic planning for the Safety & Security Committee for Lebanon of which Oxfam is a member.  It was a pleasure to be able to reconnect with some of the Oxfam team while I was there, and learn something of what had happened next in the OCS process.  That, however, is another story…


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Register now for ToP facilitation training in Brussels in 2016.